Noise-pop duo Umez’ first album has been eagerly awaited around these parts, and while most of the material on display here should be pretty familiar to anyone who’s been following the band’s online output over the past couple of years, to have it all ricocheting about in one place provides a great opportunity to take a look at the band’s confusion of drum’n’bass, lo-fi indie-punk, dreampop, noise and J-Pop as a (barely) unified package.
Opening with a clatter of beats and squalls of chainsaw noise, the album quickly launches into the Supercar-esque Good Bye My Friend followed by the garage-punk pop anthem Rainbow. Contained in both these otherwise pretty comfortably indie tracks, however, lie hints at Umez’ tendency to fuck things up, with strangled guitar solos occasionally emerging out of the murk in the former and the latter breaking down into a throbbing, electro-psychedelic interlude part way through. In Lingering Dream the drum’n’bass beat complicates things still further, and by the time we reach Z-Fighters II, we’re deep into Fad Gadget minimal electro territory, albeit with a melody that sounds like a Christmas carol.
In fact the two most jarring elements of Umez’ music which run throughout the album are the vocal melodies which, when the noise and lo-fi fuzz are stripped away, are always shamelessly pop in the way only J-Pop or children’s songs can really be, and the guitar parts which always threaten to launch into madly soloing stadium rock as they do on Black Cat. At every point, Umez refuse to conform to accepted standards of either indie cool or pop commercialism, which makes their music both unsettling as well as providing a thrilling tension between the various elements as they struggle together within the songs. We’ve seen this tendency to career back and forth between seemingly unrelated styles and moods in the way the band compiled their own 14 Years Records’ compilation album International Pop Underground Sounds (Sickness of a Fourteen Year Old Girl ) Vol.1 last year, and this self-titled debut album shows that this is reflected every bit as much in their own music.